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Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

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Blake Lively
Mike Vogel
Lizzy Caplan
Michael Stahl-David
Greg Grunberg.
Matt Reeves.
Drew Goddard.
Running Time
85 minutes

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This is cinematic pleasure at its purest

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During a leaving party for Rob (Stahl-David) something attacks New York and stands between him and the woman he loves (Yustman). So begins a race to rescue the girl and avoid getting eaten, all viewed via camcorder.

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It’s extremely rare in modern cinema to see a film that strikes you as genuinely new. Not just excellent – we’ve been spoiled in that department in the last six months – but properly like nothing that you’ve laid eyes on before. In the last fifteen years, Pulp Fiction, Scream, The Matrix and arguably Bourne and Jurassic Park have all done it, shaking out genres as old as celluloid and making them seem sparkly new, becoming future templates in the process. Cloverfield could come to be equally revered and imitated, such is its level of whip-smart invention and brilliant simplicity. It’s a film that treads the well-worn steps of many monster movies past, but flits through them as if on virgin territory.

Arriving in the wake of such a hulking marketing campaign should leave any resultant movie scuttling apologetically behind, embarrassed about making such a fuss and meakly failing to deliver. Since the first infuriatingly spare trailer hit cinemas, anyone with a phone line and keyboard has been trying to piece together this mystery from soft drink adverts, smudgy photos and red herrings. The big secret, as we all should have predicted, is that there is no big secret. Cloverfield showed its hand from the off, but it’s the way in which it plays that hand that causes it to win big.

The brainchild of producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves couldn’t be simpler in story. A big monster attacks a city so a guy, and his friends, sets off to get his gal and get outta town, pre-squashing. We’ve seen it on screens since man first discovered the alchemy of rubber suit and model village, but never with quite the same immediacy and all-encompassing horror.

After a sly intro in which we learn this entire film was found on a site “formerly known as Central Park”, we meet our hero Rob (Michael Stahl-David), his secret love Beth (Odette Yustman) and, more importantly, his video camera, as they enjoy a day together. Then we head to a party to mark his departure for a new life in Japan. Here the camera is handed over to the cheerfully dorkish, occasionally irritating, Hud (T J Miller), our eyes for the next hour. The festivities are rudely interrupted when something explodes downtown and decapitates the Statue of Liberty. It’s a sequence that horrifies more than a simple monster arrival should, particularly since we haven’t seen him yet.

Is this attack so terrifying because it has obvious shades of 9/11 or because the handheld camerawork leaves us disoriented, glimpsing the enormous creature only when Hud’s view quivers that way? It’s both. We live in a time when global violence is recorded not by professionals, but by shaky-handed bystanders with camera phones. We believe bad camerawork and suspect professional broadcast of hiding something from us. Stripped of the comfort of rhythmic editing and frenzied strings that tell us it’s time to be scared and instead served the sort of frantic footage we associate with unfathomable terror brings a new, more primal fear to the monster movie. It starts, bizarrely, to feel like something that could happen.

Reeves, who’s been near anonymous in the pre-release hype, is masterful at choosing shots without appearing to do so. We view this unlovely goliath from all angles – a fleeting leg here, full-length in crafty helicopter shots on news footage there – but he’s even more effective as an unseen presence. There’s equal, if not more, dread in hearing furious roars as our band cowers in a side street, watching the military throwing everything they have uselessly at the beast. This is as much a triumph of sound design as of seamlessly blended CG and unsettling camerawork.

Wise to the fact that the most frightening attack is the one without apparent reason, Cloverfield never chooses to explain its monster’s arrival. It’s suddenly there and, as one soldier notes, “it’s winning”. It intends to scare, not educate. The constant air of panic is so pervasive that it’s easy to miss the skilful creation of the sequences, which include a rescue from a collapsing skyscraper and a tunnel sequence so butt-clenching you’ll crap diamonds for a week.

There will undoubtedly be those who don’t enjoy it, and some will have probably decided on that before seeing a frame. Anti-populist party poopers could very well pick apart the fact that the characters are archetypes and that there’s no hidden depth beneath the fright (although you could pub rant for hours about political subtext). But unmissable cinema does not have to be about mellifluous dialogue, intricate framing or enriching the mind or soul. It can just as legitimately come from a sensory experience like no other, that you can feel nowhere else but in that dark room in front of that silver screen. And you have never experienced anything like Cloverfield.

A dazzling experiment that paid off immensely, this is cinematic pleasure at its purest. One caveat: If they ever make a sequel, we’re taking two stars back.

Reviewed by Olly Richards

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Cloverfield
Empire Star Rating

Massively Overrated

Good but not great, certainly not a classic! Empire how you could say this was "genuinely new" I will never know! Shaky handheld camera - seen before and to far scarier effect in The Blair Witch Project. Monster attacks New York City - seen before numerous times. Stupid, 20 something Americans running around screaming... you get the picture. Granted this may never have been done all in one film before but that alone surely doesn't constitute originality? The initial attack on New ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ballschin at 12:28, 24 April 2009 | Report This Post


A superb review by Olly Richards that brings alight the sheer invigoration this film provides. definatly one of my favourite movies of 2008. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Blue Ryan at 22:14, 12 April 2009 | Report This Post

I was wondering if it would still stand strong on second viewing on a smaller screen and leave the same kind of impression as it did the first time. The impression it leaves now is a bit less as you already know what`s gonna happen and the screen is a lot smaller.But once again the film knows to entertain, I thought it was a good as it was the first time around. That is well done and quite hard to achieve with a plotline this thin and it being quite predictable. The power of the film isn`t in t... More

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Posted by TheGodfather at 21:06, 01 April 2009 | Report This Post


This is a movie like nothing else. FIrst the filming is creative. Some people might think its to bad filming, but others will get the intence experience. second, finally a monster movie that doesn't just focus on the monster. Highly recomended ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jasonbie at 03:28, 17 March 2009 | Report This Post


This is a movie like nothing else. FIrst the filming is creative. Some people might think its to bad filming, but others will get the intence experience. second, finally a monster movie that doesn't just focus on the monster. Highly recomended ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jasonbie at 03:27, 17 March 2009 | Report This Post

Absolutely immence

This film showed me that not all fims on camcorder can be crap(blair witch project) from start to finish this was amazing. The monster was mint well better than that cloverfield wanna-be in the mist. Amazing film. WATCH IT!!!!!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by GavMan94 at 14:00, 28 February 2009 | Report This Post

A true cinematic experience!

Cloverfield gave me the best cinematic experience of any film in 2008 or even ever. it is scary, exciting, thrilling, gripping, nervous, tense, claustrophobic and purely a hell of a ride. it was genius marketing to create amazing hype which led to this amazing film. this is one you have to see in the cinema as i left i was shaking and literally blown away by what i had just seen. THE CINEMATIC EVENT OF 2008! pure thrills, scares and fun ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by THE DALTONATOR at 10:35, 25 January 2009 | Report This Post

An Immensely Creative and Thrilling Film

I agree with Empire's review 100%. Cloverfield is fresh and invigorating, breathing new life into the creaky old machine which was the monster movie. Fast-paced, highly intense and surprisingly humane, Cloverfield is one of the stand-out films of 2008. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ben Lee at 12:11, 08 January 2009 | Report This Post

A absoloutley amazing film. second only to The dark knight for film of the year. I let my 7 year old daughter watch it and she was on the edge of her seat. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyboy84 at 18:13, 28 December 2008 | Report This Post


I love this film. I'm not really that easily pleased...not matter what it seems. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great film. The simplicity of the film is phenominal. The graphics were incredible and the set was was like they really WERE in New york! 5-STAR ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by videoguru4472 at 10:44, 11 December 2008 | Report This Post


I didn't like the characters yet still enjoyed the film; I can't recall another example of that happening. The people in the film are very one-dimensional and their 'natural' dialogue is anything but, yet the nature of the film is such that their annoying tendencies don't really matter. They are simply a handy plot device, and the fact that what we see is basically in their hands is a very good technique. It's not an original technique, but it suits this type of film, and adds to the claustropho... More

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Posted by Swifty170 at 00:43, 19 November 2008 | Report This Post

not impressive

it's so boooooring, and the end is very dull ... More

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Posted by Kate1525 at 20:38, 04 November 2008 | Report This Post

Brilliant movi and i would watch it again anytime but if they decided to make a sequel it would spoil both movies its just not meant to have a sequel ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by missionkill1 at 16:37, 02 November 2008 | Report This Post


Is there anything as bizarre as seeing a film live up to a hype like Cloverfield has had. The film does everything right that we were hoping it would do, not since The Blair Witch Project has there been a perfected point of view concept untill Cloverfield witch sells the idea almost to well. The story is not exactly a monster film as much as it is a love story set around a monster attack where we get really great characters to get attached to. The cinematography is excellent in it´s execut... More

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Posted by AxelB at 00:41, 22 October 2008 | Report This Post

bad cinema trip

my ma sat the whole time she watched this with a coal over her head she was sick after it not the best movie ever but still ammmmmazingggg ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by komic book guy at 17:00, 11 October 2008 | Report This Post

Good, not great

Okay, this is not a five star film. NO! It just isnt. The shaky cam makes me feel ill, the characters are awful and the monster, at best, is slighty eerie. First things first, the camera. Why shaky cam? It failed with the blaire witch project, why try it here? It didnt acheive anything other than aggrivation. If they do a sequel (and i agree, 2 stars should be taken then!), i hope it is done with a conventional camera style. Now the characters. I didnt care when Marlena exploded. I laughed! Yes,... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RandyChimp at 09:41, 02 October 2008 | Report This Post

pure unadulterated 'ollocks!..I can't see how this got 5 stars. There are some movie makers (Abrahams, Whedon, Lucas) that if they filmed cats taking dumps in hats for three hours Empire would still give them 5 stars...mind boggling1 ... More

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Posted by Bobby1975 at 11:56, 21 September 2008 | Report This Post

The coolest movie evr. NUF SAID! ... More

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Posted by malrey06 at 00:54, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post

A wasted opportunity

I'm not sure how much Empire was paid to give this movie a 5 star review but I, personally, was not that impressed. This film has been done before and it has been done better. The Blair Witch Project, 28 Days Later, Independance Day...The handheld 'reality' concept was undermined by the crystal clear images with perfect lighting we were presented with. Anyone used to watching the news knows that amateur footage is rarely ever so clear. The acting/writing was disappointing. Nobody really seemed ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dhowdy at 09:30, 29 August 2008 | Report This Post

Marmite Film Of 2008

It suprised me alot this film, both with a very downbeat ending and it's smartness to leave questions unanswered. You'll either love it or hate it, I loved it and it grows on you with repeat viewings. Oh and the creature is pretty cool too :) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PaulJohn at 19:20, 02 August 2008 | Report This Post

Good but not great

Camera effects a side, this is a half decent story about a new kind of attack on New York. Even though i admired Matt Reeves radical new style - I didn't love it, Entertaining sure, but nothing more, worth a watch (if you don't suffer from motion sickness that is). ... More

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Posted by MikeCollins6 at 01:06, 02 August 2008 | Report This Post


An interesting experiment that provides good entertainment, but will be too different and controversial for many. Nonetheless, a truly new experience for die-hard movie fans. AD ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by andy399 at 19:47, 25 July 2008 | Report This Post

Camcorder Equals Bad Film

There's a reason why amateur camcorder film is so irritating, and all credit to the makers of Cloverfield, they remind us of it all the time. The Blair Witch Project - another annoying and over-rated film - tried it some years back, and the impact is no better in Cloverfield. The hand-held camera makes it difficult to watch, and nausea-inducing after about 10 minutes. The artistic danger is that, together with the pre-film hype (again reminiscent of Blair Witch) the camcorder gimic is there t... More

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Posted by john oldmixon at 00:19, 20 July 2008 | Report This Post


Original and unique with many twists nd turns ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mousee at 23:12, 11 July 2008 | Report This Post

Just didn't live up to the massive hype for me ...

I'm SO glad I didn't pay to see this in the cinema. The characters are annoying teen/young people's show cutouts with their boring dramas between themselves, the doc-type camera gave me headache and sorry for all caps, but it annoyed me alot - THE DARN MONSTER ISN'T EVEN SCARY! After all that hype, it only had 4 effectively jumpy moments, due to the element of surprise. What a shame. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sunnygirly2k4 at 17:43, 08 July 2008 | Report This Post

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